VIRGINIA BEACH – The city is asking residents to weigh in on their cable TV service in an online survey as it prepares to renew its long-term franchise agreements with Cox Communications and Verizon.
Cox and Verizon use city streets and other public rights of way to install their cables. In return, the city is authorized by federal law to charge the companies a franchise fee.
The city received $7,531,593 in cable fees from Cox and Verizon for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, and $7,939,584 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, according to figures from the Department of Budget and Management Services. The fees are passed onto cable customers in their bill; revenue from it goes to the city to offset taxes, said Kevin Fairley of the city’s Department of Communications and Information Technology.
In the survey, residents can mark how satisfied they are with their service and write about any problems they have with it. It had recorded nearly 600 responses as of Tuesday, within about a week of its launch. The survey will be available until 5 p.m. Jan 24.
The current cable franchise agreements were for 10 years. The city can not mandate a price reduction for cable rates or control the programming, but it does hold the companies responsible for meeting customer service standards, such as telephone response time, outages and maintaining local offices, Fairley said.
The city will use feedback from the surveys to inform its new franchise agreements with the companies. It is also asking residents about Virginia Beach Television, which is managed by city staff and operates three government and education channels that are carried by the cable providers.
The city staff members involved in crafting the new franchise agreements will do so while leaving room for advancements in new technology, Fairley said.
“We do have to try and be smart when we write the franchise, so when new technology is available, it’s available here in Virginia Beach,” he said.